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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  December 25, 2012 4:15pm-5:00pm EST

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story most of us enjoy most. so when i am reading for fun i like to read ashley trollope, elizabeth gaskell, as well as well-known ones like jane austen and dickens and george areas. the american writer i like very much from that period or a little later is edith walton. great favorite of mine. i like her because she is the real storyteller but always kind of fiercely intelligent. her analysis of her characters always amaze you but that isn't all. she doesn't just do that, she tells you a real story. she is a great favorite of mine. >> before i turn this back over -- i want to ask a personal favor of you and ask you to sign
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this book. [applause] >> by the way -- you will have a chance to do the same. >> while they are signing i want to introduce myself, dale gregory, vice president of public programs and how thrilling it is to have you all here in these two charming gentlemen, i am sure you will agree and i want to remind you the book is on sale in the museum store, book signing will be out the back doors, i am so happy that you came, that that you said yes, we want to thank you, charles osgood, and ken follett, for agreeing -- it must have been immediately too. it was wonderful.
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[applause] >> for more information visit the author's web site, ken >> from the twelfth annual national book festival on the national mall in washington d.c. robert caro presents the fourth volume of his biography of lyndon johnson, "the passage of power," the years of lyndon johnson. this is about 45 minutes. [applause] >> thank you. thank you. that was such a wonderful introduction. such a wonderful introduction it reminds me what lyndon johnson used to say when he got a nice introduction. he used to say he wished his parents were alive to hear it.
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he said his father would have loved it and his mother would have believed it. you know, when winston churchill was writing his great biography of his ancestors someone asked him how -- he said i am working on the fifth of a projected four volumes. i am not comparing myself to winston churchill but regard to the lyndon johnson biography we are in the same boat. i have been writing about lyndon johnson so long that people ask me don't you get bored? the answer is the very opposite is true. the one reason i don't think of these books as being about lyndon johnson just as i didn't think of the power brokers being about robert moses, i never had the slightest interest in writing the book just to tell the wife of a famous man. from the moment i first thought
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of doing books i thought of biographies, i thought of biographies as a way of examining the great forces that shape the times that they live-and particularly political power. why is political power so important? we live in a democracy so ultimately we have the power and the votes we carry to the ballot boxes and the more that we know about how political power really works, not as it is taught in textbooks and colleges but the raw naked reality of political power, the better our votes should be and the better our countries should be and lyndon johnson was the right man to examine political power. he was such a genius in the use of it, bending congress and washington to his will. the greatest genius in the use of political power that america produced in the second half of
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the 20th century and endless fascinating to watch him use it over and over again in this book, the passage of power, to see him step into the presidency where president kennedy is assassinated with no preparation at all, think of no preparation at all after political scientists say the time between election day nov. inauguration day is 11 weeks, that is too short a time for a president to get ready to assume office. lyndon johnson had two hours and six minutes in which he was sworn in on the plane, air force one, let's get airborne and landed in washington. he had to get off of the plane, ready to be president of the united states. to see him step in with no preparation at all, when president kennedy's legislative program, civil rights and every one of his other major bills as
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well was stalled by the southern committee chairman who controlled congress as they had been controlling it for a quarter of the century, to see him get the program up and running, ramming it through to what lyndon johnson do that in the first weeks after kennedy's assassination is a lesson in what a president can do if he now knows all of the levers to pull, but has the will, lyndon johnson's case, almost vicious drive to do it to win, to say over and over again as i am always saying to myself when i am doing the research, look what he is doing here. i don't say i succeeded but i try to explain that in my books and to me, to see him do that is something that is not only fascinating but revelatory, giving a true insight into how
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power works in washington and there's another reason that i don't get tired of doing these books of lyndon johnson. you are always learning something new and that goes even if what you are researching is something that has been written about 1,000 or 10,000 times already in the case of the centerpiece of this book, the assassination of president kennedy during a motorcade from dallas on nov. 20 second, 1963. lyndon johnson was in that motorcade too. the first car, the first car, they were arriving with john connolly, governor of texas and his wife, once the sweetheart of university of texas, a very beautiful woman, the car behind them is a heavily armored secret service car with agents standing on the running boards with
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automatic rifles balance between the seats and the third car is lyndon johnson's car, he is writing in the back on the right side, ladybird johnson is in the center and the senator from texas is on the left. and the front is a secret serviceman, johnson's car is in that motorcade but thousands of books have been written about the assassination they concentrate on what happened to jack kennedy, instant details in what i consider an adequate way, not one went into substantial detail about what happened to lyndon johnson, or his point of view. the assassination had never been told from johnson's point of view that came to me when i was doing this book, we have to that. how the do that? first you interview the people who are still alive.
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john connolly himself is very helpful to me, had this great ranch in south texas with a stable of quarter horses, he used to come over to the guest house where i would stay very early in the morning, 5:30 or 6:00 and we go and sit on the top railing of a fence watching the quarter horses and he would tell me, he answered almost every question i asked, but took me through the assassination -- among the things he said was everybody thought when they heard the shot that it was a motorcycle backfire or that it was a balloon going on for a firecracker. i knew the instant i heard that it was the crack of a hunting rifle. i talked to everyone with lyndon johnson, still live in the
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hospital with lyndon johnson, congressman jack brooks, lyndon johnson's devoted secretary, at kennedy's secretary of lincoln. there are other sources that have been overlooked, written sources. when i was doing this suddenly i came across a fact, secret service regulations that when you are a member of the presidential or vice-presidential detail and there was an incident, any incident involving the president or vice president and it was secret service turned just an incident. if there was an incident, the first available opportunity, with every detail you remember and give it to the chief of the secret service, i asked secret service but never got a reply,
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but i was thinking the johnson library they have forty-four million documents and i went to the archivist there and i said does their exist in this library those secret service reports and she said yes and there they suddenly delivered to my desk 23 secret service men in that motorcade and they were involved in dallas that day and all submitted reports and all bound in a volume, not a formal volume but cardboard binding, that is titled report of the united states secret service on the assassination of president kennedy. from these reports you find out quite a lot. take the report of just one of them, special agent in charge of the vice presidential detail who are secret service agents time
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mentioned a few moments ago. he was riding in the front seat of johnson's car. you have to picture this. the motorcade is going through the streets of dallas from every window in the office, other people are leaning out. every time jack kennedy waves they surge against the police and the car has to go slower and slower. when jackie smiles and waves they surged even more enthusiastically to the car. suddenly they are out of the main area and they turn into a very empty area, a grassy plaza and as they do there's a shark cracking sound. people thought was a firecracker backfiring or motorcycle, but john connally knows what it is. yarborough did not know any instance. he hears the noise and what happened in his report, very
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tight thumb, statement of rufus youngblood, the chief concerning details of the events occurring in dallas on nov. 20 second. the testimony also before the warren commission. and in kennedy's car which is two cars ahead, he sees what he calls in his report, not mold -- normal movements. the president is tilting to the left. we know now the poignant tragic reason he was tilting to the left is although he was hit by one shot he couldn't fall down, president kennedy had this terribly bad back and he wore a heavy coat and where there was a long hard day for additional protection, wrapped around his
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legs and his waist a bandage and the figure reconfiguration to give extra support. when he was hit by the first shot he goes like this and therefore hit by the second shot. youngblood sees not normal movements, the president tilting and at the same point ec's and agent in the second car, the secret service car rising to his feet and grabbing his automatic rifle and looking around, he doesn't know for what. we know what youngblood does next. i wrote it this way. whirling in his seat, youngblood shouted ladybird johnson said he shouted in a voice i have never heard him use before, get down, get down, and grabbing johnson's right shoulder youngblood linked -- yankton down to the floor, in the center of the car. he almost leaped over the back of the front seat and threw his body over the vice president's
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body shouting again, get down, get down. by the time, only a matter of eight seconds later that the next two sharper ports had cracked out everyone knew what they were now. lyndon johnson was down on the floor in the back seat of the car, curled over on his right side. the sudden large -- loud, sharp sound, the hand suddenly grabbing the shoulder and pulling in down, now he was on the floor. his face on the floor with the weight of a big man lying on top of him pressing and down, lyndon johnson would say that he would never forget his knees in my back at his elbows in my back and young blood is sitting half sitting at half lying on top of him to protect a man young blood is wearing a short wave radio to keep in communication with other cars and over this short wave
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radio, crackling in johnson's year, would favor saying in the first two card ahead, johnson here's he is hit, he is hit and begins to hear the word hospital. youngblood tells the driver of his car close it up because he knows his maximum protection is going to be close to that secret service, are. the driver of johnson's car is the texas highway patrolman named herschel jacks and youngblood describes him as a typical texan, laconic and tough and puts the johnson car right behind the bumper of the secret service par as three cars, squeal of of a ramp and into the ramp apart from the hospital. youngblood as they're going, youngblood says to johnson, when we get to that hospital, don't stop for anything. don't look around, don't stop.
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we're going to get you some place safe. the car stops and four agents pool johnson out of the car and run him off of the emergency room bay. he doesn't have a chance to look around. his car was right next to kennedy's car. if he had a chance to look around he would have seen the president lying on jackie's lab but doesn't get a glimpse of it. they run him through the hospital looking for place to protect. finally they come to something called the hospital minor medicine section and bears the cubicle in the back, three cubicles. the first are unoccupied and the record a patient is being treated. he is hustled out and they put johnson against the wall in the last cubicle. young blood, ladybird is next to him and someone brings a chair and she sits down. youngblood is standing in front
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of them. in the room between this room and the outer room are two secret service agents and at the doorway -- am i doing that? [beeping sound] i will try to talk over. can you hear me ok? thank you. in the doorway is a fourth agent. youngblood system and stay in the doorway and don't let anyone pass you unless you personally know his face. so johnson is standing there for approximately 40 minutes. he doesn't know what has happened to president kennedy. can't get any information. occasionally he sends somebody out, try to get information and all they come back and say the doctors say they are working on the president. that is the only information he
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is given. johnson is standing against the back wall and after 40 minutes, kenny o'donnell who is not only kennedy's appointments secretary but a man who really loved him, and lady bird johnson wrote kenny o'donnell came through the door, she wrote seeing the face of kenny o'donnell who loved him, we knew. o'donnell says to johnson simply he is gone. moment later another kennedy aide comes into the room and goes up to johnson and says mr. president, the first time he has ever been called that. what was lyndon johnson like during those 40 minutes when he is standing there against the back wall of the cubicle? talk to the congress and those who came in and talk to jacqueline and his aides who were there, valenti wasn't even
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in the room and they all used the same words, the same word youngblood use, calm. he was absolutely calm and they remembered what ladybird was always saying about johnson who was given to almost hysterical fits. when you have a cold you think he is dying of pneumonia but ladybird is a tough spot, he is a good man. ladybird said watching his face in that 40 minutes was like seeing the face of the bronze statue. very tough face, lips compressed, almost a -- we know lyndon johnson looked, his eyes piercing but absolutely calm. the minute he is addressed as mr president he starts to act like one. the secret service agents crowd around him and no one knows this isn't a conspiracy. you remember it was only a year past the cuban missile crisis. wasn't just for a president who
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had been hit by at shots but also the governor of texas. if youngblood hadn't thrown himself on top of lyndon johnson they didn't know if the shot was intended for him. they didn't know if this was a conspiracy, an international conspiracy or some other kind of conspiracy. they say we have got to get you out of here immediately and getting back to the plane and taking off for washington as we can secure yousef in the white house. johnson says no. i am not leaving until mrs. kennedy leaves with me. so we can get her back to washington. won't leave without her husband's body. johnson's as we go to the plane and wait for her and the body there. calm and decisive as if he thought everything through in a moment, that scene on the plane when he gets to the plane also haven't been described from his point of view. we all know the photograph, lyndon johnson standing with his hand up, jacqueline kennedy
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standing next to him, ladybird on the other side, the judge with the bible administering the oath. it hadn't been told from johnson's point of view and i wanted to do that so for the -- to do that i will talk to everyone who is alive and who was in that room. i talked to mary famer who was johnson's secretary. if you look at that iconic photograph, in the back behind the people you see the top of the young woman sort of curly black head, that is a marie famer's head. what she is doing she told me is checking that johnson takes the oath of office, she is checking to make sure that the words are right. there was a reporter who left wonderful oral history, watching johnson take over in that room, he said the kennedys, a contempt for johnson when he was vice president, they called him rufus corn pone, they had a nickname
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for ladybird too, here comes uncle corn pone and his little pork chop. these reporters had contempt for him also and the reporters, roberts of the washington post said i have only seen johnson as a colonel corn pone. i said it is going to be hard to think of him as president johnson. but watching him take over, suddenly it wasn't hard at all. he is towering over the room. johnson was always the biggest man in a room. so i am trying to talk to everyone who is alive. it is sticking in my mind, i have forgotten some one. can't imagine who i forgot? i kept going over the faces and suddenly occurs to me that who i forgot, mr. photographer. the photographer's name was a man named -- his name was cecil stout. i thought he must be dead by
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this time but i had my lifeline to look up in the national telephone directory, and there he was, living in washington. living in florida. 89 years old. i called and his wife answered the phone and i said my name is robert caro and i am writing books about lyndon johnson. she said cecil has been waiting for you to call. [laughter and applause] >> those of you who have read the book know that he threw in a lot of other details. very fascinating details including the fact that the steadiness of johnson's hand, one hand was on the bible, there wasn't the tremor, he was absolutely calm. then there is the flight back. what was linda john senden doing on a flight back? seemed incredible to me that with all the books that had been
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written, they hadn't gone in real detail into that. everybody's mind, was there a conspiracy? at every air force base along the route, the air force one is going back to washington, fighter planes are on the runway, their engines are running, the pilots are belted into their seats and on the radar screens in the shacks, the radar shaq, men are bent over the radar screens watching to see if there is any blip from air force one. in 1,000 pounds, air force one rolls across america, flags are being lowered to half mast. church bells are starting to john. new york city lights have been turned on to the theater, the marquee and times square, one by one the lights go off.
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traffic. somebody hears it and stopped his car, behind they start to beat and someone comes out and they ask, he tells what happened and the news circulates from car to car, traffic comes to a hot dog peddler and he is sitting on a curb on broadway and someone gets out and says is it true? he says yes, he is dead. on fifth avenue, shop windows, salespeople come out in one store after another, taking the mannequins output in a photograph of president kennedy there. the church bells start to charm over the city. on the plane, there are three compartments. interfirst sits the press and staff and kennedy's secretaries are sitting there sobbing. in the last compartment jacqueline kennedy is sitting next to her husband.
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in the center compartment where lyndon johnson is sitting in the president's share there is an air -- we know what he is planning because he is making a list on little note pad on air force one that have the heading air force one and he writes on one of them, one staff, two leaders, a meeting with staff, meeting with the cabinet immediately and congressional leadership. we know about incidents that occurred during a flight, in one case just before it took off. when lyndon johnson calls robert kennedy. these are two men who have hated each other all their lives. at the time kennedy is having lunch he had a house in virginia, a big white old house, there is a long green lawn that goes down to a swimming pool and robert kennedy is sitting at table with robert morgan who had
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been the u.s. attorney for new york, and two things happen simultaneously. all of a sudden the house was being repainted, there was a guard on the latter painting and all of a sudden hes the short wave transistor radio, comes down the ladder and starts to run towards us as fast as he can add at that moment the telephone rings on the table on the other side of the swimming pool and ethel kennedy gets up and says to robert kennedy it is j. edgar hoover and cougar telling robert kennedy that his brother had been hit and was probably killed. we know on this plane johnson went in to president kennedy's bedroom, made a call to robert kennedy. he asks him for the details of being sworn in and the exact wording of the oath he should
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take as president. now you say is johnson taking revenge for all the humiliation that robert kennedy inflicted on him when he was vice president? was there some other motive? we don't know. i certainly don't know. but marie famer, robert kennedy catches in his deputy to this call and he says anyone of the 100 officials could have given johnson that information. i could have given him the information. he shouldn't have made that call. i asked marie famer who was on an extension taking down the words of the oath, he says -- what ritter voices like? she said katzenbach's voice was like steel. robert kennedy's was when he started but then it wasn't.
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then stopped and said to me he shouldn't have been talking on that call. not that lyndon johnson ever when at all against robert kennedy. when the plane lands at andrews air force base he has made arrangements. when he was in i should have said one of the things the people in the cabin said was how insisting johnson was that jacqueline kennedy be standing beside him while he took the oath because he wanted a symbol of continuity and she understood this too. when she doesn't come out johnson said why don't you go get her and donald says the want to do it and she says for the sake of history i should. johnson wants the back door of air force one with himself and jacqueline kennedy behind and
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the kennedy aides and his aides have this continuity but as the plane rolls up at andrews air force base, the front door has a ramp going up to too and robert kennedy runs up the front ramp, pushes his way the length of the plane, pushes his way past and in johnson without ever looking at him and he goes down with a jackie behind the coffin. we all know that scene of the coffin coming down on a forklift with jackie and robert behind it and they drive off and the ramp is move the way so when johnson comes to the back door of the plane he has no place to go. he has to stand waiting with the car carrying kennedy's body leaves. there are a hundred facts about that day that we all thought we knew but we didn't. that could help in an attempt to understand lyndon johnson. and of course in this book i try
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also to talk about the days right after this thing. the first confrontation with congress which stopped kennedy so completely. what is on the agenda? some minor bill like exporting bill relating to a wheat deal with russia and some conservative republican senator from the midwest introduced an amendment that would limit the president's power and kennedy people are just prepared to let it go through. not johnson. he says i want that bill stopped. his exact words are i want that bill merger. he doesn't want it just defeated. he wants to defeated by enough to show congress there's a new president now and you can't treat him the same way you were -- you can't treat me the way you were treating him. he stays on and calls in his vote counter and they don't even know, they tell him they have a certain number of votes but
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johnson is the greatest vote counter. he counts the votes and realizes they don't. all night he stays on the telephone making calls to senators and the bill is murdered. johnson writes in his memoirs at that moment, the power of the federal government began flowing back to the white house. and it did. one of the things this book, "the passage of power," is about, really, is about how lyndon johnson got power back in the white house. what he does with that power once he has it back. this book covers the first forty-seven days of "the passage of power". "the passage of power" from one president to another, up to january 8, 1964. by the end of that time, those 47 days, the passage is over. he has turned jack kennedy's
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bills, civil-rights bill, tax cut bill, at least started all of them on the road to passage and january 8th is also the day of lyndon johnson's first state of the union speech. the speech in which he makes the presidency his own. with his announcement that america is going to have a war on poverty. if we don't know the man guido, not well enough known in history are wonderful. too many americans live on the outskirts of hope and that is his quote. that is who we have to help. the more detail you learn about how johnson did it, about what he did with congress and what he did to congress, the more amazing accomplishment seems.
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the civil-rights bill is dead -- if there was only one leader lyndon johnson is going to grab it. if there was one leader he was going to put all his weight behind it. all of a sudden the new york times writes something changed on capitol hill yesterday and the civil-rights bill starts to move. during this brief transition period, what i call "the passage of power" lyndon johnson not only rescued his predecessor's programs but launches one of his don't, a war on poverty, a crusade for a noble end that would, had it succeeded, have transformed america. that is not the whole story of lyndon johnson's presidency, of course.
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there is another volume get to come. [applause] vietnam is yet to come. the story of how the war on poverty and the many programs of the great society, the story of how the great dreams are to be submerged in vietnam is yet to come. what i tried to do in this volume, what i think we can see with a rare clarity in those 47 days by watching how lyndon johnson told of presidential power and quickly began to use that power for ends so monumental, what i fink we can see is the intensity of the potential that and american president possesses to transform the country.
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thank you very much. [applause] [applause] >> i will be happy to take questions. yes, sir. >> in your books you talk a lot about the two sides of lbj, the dark side and the light side. for example, when president kennedy died he wrote such a moving condolence letter to john but yet can be so cool to his staff and ladybird. can you comment on that a little bit more? >> can you all hear the question ok? wonderfully well organized
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festival. you can actually all hear the question. it is a rarity. johnson is that kind of person. one of the real difficulties in writing about him. he is a person of such contrast that his cruelty can be so cruel, so monumental, the way he would break rules of politics, to steal the election that got into the senate in quite a remarkable way, not at all unusual in texas but beyond the usual bounds of politics, that is lyndon johnson. the desire to help poor people, particularly poor people of color, that was lyndon johnson and part of his whole life also. yes, sir. >> what is your perspective on the writing of the assassination by the father of a former press secretary of president george w. bush? did you ever interview or question that author or his father, scott mcclellan?
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>> i didn't interview him. all i can say about lyndon johnson's role in the assassination is in all my years of working on lyndon johnson's papers and going through his diaries and everything else and all the people opposed to him i never found the slightest hint he had anything to do with the assassination. yes, sir? >> lbj is well remembered as someone who was very adept at being in the senate and working with congress as president to get difficult thing is done. how well do you think he would do as president today getting things done with a very polarized environment? [applause? >> that is a terrific question. it is hard to answer but part of the answer is the following -- when lyndon johnson became
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majority leader of the senate in 1955, the senate was and had been for decades, let's put it that way, the same mess, the same dysfunctional mess that it is today. bills couldn't get past because the power than that confronted a president wasn't a party, wasn't republicans against democrats, it was an interparty division. half of the democrats in the senate were southern democrats who were as conservative as can be imagined on civil-rights and everything else. they in that year, 1975, the 16 great standing committees and the senate, the republicans were -- seeing your committee posts were stacked and subcommittees were headed buy them. they had stopped every president. no one seems to realize this but
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in the 25 years after the supreme court packing fight when southern conservatives realize they and the midwestern republicans were on the same side and could control congress no president, not franklin roosevelt, not truman, ever got a major domestic bill through congress. johnson comes in and in an instant it is changed and the senate becomes the center of governmental energy and creativity. working, and founding fathers wanted, he is majority leader for six years. at an end six years he leaves. instantly the senate is back in the same mess. the nature of political genius is to find a way, when no way appears obvious. i don't have any idea what president johnson would do, hopefully i could research it. someone will come along to do it
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again. >> one of the major events in this book is the u.s. role and overthrow -- johnson is on record in the cabinet meetings opposing it. can you elaborate on what particularly drove his stance and what particularly was that on that and why he believed the way he did on that point? one of the things he agreed with robert kennedy on. >> can i take a pass on that one question? the reason is is at the beginning of the book i am writing now. it is -- the answer is so complicated, i don't have a summation of it in my mind right now. >> can i go back and refer to your book that you are talking about now than? you alluded when you stated united states was running under the kennedy administration -- >> lyndon johnson. >> lyndon johnson said that,
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back to robert kennedy and alluded to him. >> just -- [talking over each other] >> johnson, kennedy, johnson, i don't want to be put in a position -- johnson did say that in his retirement. he said to the reporter the cantonese were running murder incorporated in the caribbean. exactly in what documentation he had a we don't know, i don't know. >> he had a hand in killing him and it is happening here. >> that was a quote in the book. >> we have time for only one more question. thank you. thank you. >> thank you for reporting on
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lyndon johnson. [applause] [applause] >> could elaborate a little bit on his stance on civil rights before he was president and how he passed landmark legislation and what the differences were in his outlook on that issue? >> elaborate on lyndon johnson's stance on civil rights and how he -- his stance on civil rights, glad you asked me that because people are always asking me how sincere he was. i always felt lyndon johnson always wanted to help poor people of color. i will tell you why i think i know that. when johnson was in college between his sophomore and junior years he had to drop out of college to teach and he taught in a little town in south texas and he taught in what is called the mexican school. it was really for the


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